Time: 1:00om MST
Location: Ricoh Coliseum Toronto
The last time these two teams met, the Marlies handed the Heat their worst defeat of the season so far (5-0). After a so-so start, Toronto has been climbing up the standings and currently sit tied for 3rd in Western Conference with 27 points, just four back of Abbotsford.
They have been paced by the play of AHL veteran Keith Aucoin and former first rounder Nazem Kadri. The latter struggled to put up points to start the season, but has really come on lately and certainly looked like one of the best played on the ice against the Heat last time these clubs clashed. Kadri has four goals and six points in his last four games.
As for the Heat, they have hit a bit of skid for the first time this year, losing three of three games to start December, being shut-out in two of them. Ironically, Abbotsford controlled the shot clock against the San Antonio Rampage in each of the last two games, but struggled to put pucks behind the resurgent Jacob Markstrom.
Max Reinhart has moved up the rotation a bit in the absence of guys lik Walter and Baertschi and has finally getting some pucks on net. He managed 11 shots in two games versus San Antonio and was apparently far more involved in the offensive zone that earlier in the year. I still think Reinhart is in for a longer apprenticeship in the AHL, but he needs to at least show some indications of prowess lest he get bumped form the line-up altogether.
He will apparently play with Ben walter who makes his return to the line-up today. That should be a top-six trio for sure.
- Olson – Street – Kolanos
- Laing – Byron – Nemisz
- Horak – Reinhart – Walter
- Bancks – Estoclet – Ruesegger
- Brodie – Piskula
- Breen – McCarthy
- McKelvie – Callahan
Last game was a disaster for the ever sinking Leland Irving. He allowed three goals on eight shots against, lowering his save percentage to just .884 this year. Almost any goalie can struggle through a five game stretch like that, but the bad news for Irving is he’s fighting for playing time and credibility on a team and in an organization that increasingly has more and better options.
The Marlies top line has been red hot and has provided the majority of the club’s offense lately, so that is who the Heat will have to worry about the most this afternoon. Jake Gardiner is out with an "upper body" injury.
- Ross – Kadri – Frattin
- McKegg – Colborne – Ashton
- Hamilton – Aucoin – Abbott
- Ryan – Zigomanis – Scott
- Ranger – Kostka
- Blacker – Yeo
- Fraser- Holzer
On the other hand, Joe Colborne is suffering through a terrible slump. With one goal and six points in 19 games, he is 17th on the team in scoring. He has just one point is his last 10 games and has managed just 29 shots on net so far this year. Although he probably isn’t a true 3% shooter, those numbers are still very worrisome for the former 15th overall pick, even if you assume he’s had some bad luck in terms of pucks finding twine: with with an average 12% shooting % this year, he’d still only have about 3 goals so far.
Something has gone terribly awry for the 22 year old native Calgarian. He’s young enough to figure things out, of course, but he’s not so young that a full season of these sorts of results won’t do real damage to his stock in the Toronto organization.
Sum it Up
The Marlies are a tough opponent. They have some good names at all levels of the depth chart, including guys like Kadri and Aucoin as well as veterans such as Mike Zigomanis, Matt Frattin and Paul Ranger. The Heat more or less controlled the flow of play, though nott he score, against the Rampage recently, but it’s going to be a lot harder to keep the puck in the offensive zone today in Toronto. Here’s hoping the team can re-discover its scoring touch.